an illustrative anecdote for your benefit: my last semester as an undergrad, i took a graduate course i talked my way into on the sex industry stocked predominantly with women's studies masters' candidates. this class met once a week in the afternoons, so i would typically rush into class a few minutes late after having spent too long in the experienced and highly capable arms of marcus, braless and flustered in a low-scooped wifebeater and asshugging jeans, to face a room full of people in buttoned-up oxford shirts and below-the-knee skirts writing their thesis on the cutting-edge topic of stripping and/or street-level prostitution with the central assertion being that these two professions (gasp!) exploit women! and here i was having just fucked a male escort who LOVES his job writing my research paper on an analysis of popular and award-winning adult films to find out whether acclaimed titles that people actually want to watch can be said to be violent and exploitative towards women. most fun research paper ever. got an A in that class.
point being...i had/have a different perspective than most of the people who get into studying sex work and pornography, and while the people in my class were all lovely people we had to sit there and read a lot of bullshit from radical feminists who, when talking about street-level prostitution initiated primarily by dirt-poor drug addicts or abuse victims in parking lots or hourly hotels, extrapolate this very specific research to cover all forms of prostitution: brothels, legal or not, where prostitutes are given a safe space to work; escort agencies where clients are vetted and bodyguards and chauffers may be employed; even completely independent escorts who operate at an in-call location they themselves pay for, who vet their own clients and have the complete power to deny access to their bodies as well as earning all profits from the transaction.
what's even sillier is that the radical feminists studying survival sex on the streets then go on to say that watching sex on a screen in the privacy of your own home is just as exploitative as sex for hire. i agree, to some extent, that pornography can be exploitative, but this i put down to a faulty labour model, a set of protocols that many directors feel must be satisfied in order to deliver a "complete" product (ie the cumshot) and a business model formulated by men which assumes that the final consumer of the product will also be a heterosexual man. however, in addition to ignoring the alt-porn phenomenon we have seen in recent years, radical feminists talk suspiciously sparingly about gay porn made for a homosexual or bisexual male audience, bisexual porn made for both men and women, female entrepreneurs and directors in the adult entertainment industry (hello, audacia ray) and even lesbian porn made for women by women! because any adult film with female performers, even one whose final consumers will be female, inherently exploits women. riiiiight.
so yeah, i tune out the radical feminist argument. because frankly, i think it's completely wrong. i think they make the mistake of conflating a specific set of issues surrounding certain types of survival sex work, issues like labour standards, illegal trafficking and target audience, with symptoms of a central "problem." then they ignore all evidence that contradicts their preciously-held viewpoint, even when their moral crusade infantilizes female sex workers by not only assuming that they had absolutely no agency in getting into sex work, but also by refusing to talk to them!
case in point: the recent panel discussion on pornography at william and mary, which i didn't tune into until about a week before it was scheduled to happen because, let's face it, we've heard the abolitionist argument a million times before and sex-positive activists usually aren't let within a hundred feet of a podium, such is the way the world works i'm used to it. what caught my attention was this post from renegade evolution, who had been scheduled to be on the panel but, at the time of this post, was uninvited from presenting at the behest of one sam berg, a radical feminist who reacted to "threats" made by ren on her blog by leaning on the organisers to get her off the panel. a move thinly veiling the frequently-encountered radical feminist desire and impulse to silence the perspectives of sex workers and sex-positive activists.
reading back, one comment on that post was particularly prescient. "You realize that if she can't get you off the pannel [sic] she'll use that as an excuse not to show up, right?" i had pushed this conference to the back of my mind out of this-is-the-way-the-world-works frustration, but thanks to viviane (who also linked to ren's post) i stumbled on this response to a guest post that sam made on a cohort's blog. funny story - as it turns out, both sam and one of her colleagues bailed on the panel, leaving one person to defend the abolitionist viewpoint in a forum that sam herself had deemed dangerous! how amusing. so when the radical feminists don't get their way, they boycott any meaningful debate in service to continuing their moral crusade with minds uncorrupted by differing viewpoints.
a very interesting note which illustrates my point perfectly is the fact that laurelin disabled comments on sam's guest post with the following lovely vignette:
Edited by Laurelin, She of the Short Fuse: to the sex pos-ly inclined who suddenly love my blog sooooo much, you’ve had your say elsewhere. Now here’s 50p my dears- go phone someone who gives a damn. No-one who is stupid enough to think they can patronise me gets space on my blog. Now run along!
now isn't it just so nice to be able to stunt free and open debate when people start saying things that contradict what you think. and telling us "sex pos-ly inclined" peeps not to patronise her in the most patronising way possible. what a great way to engender free speech and mutual respect in the feminist community!
it's also worth noting that as of this writing both posts written by raunch feminists that i've linked to still have their comments open, even as the debate descends into the predictable and previously-mentioned rancour that accompanies the 2nd- vs. 3rd-wave feminist debates. makes me happy knowing which side i'm on. even if i've stopped reading the comments.